Landscape has -we saw many images- a bit of an amorphous image. When people think about landscape they don’t think of rigor, of order, of a formal element but rather of something very free, wild and uncontrollable. (…) We never want to reproduce nature or a landscape but we always want to make clear what is tamed, that we use an aesthetic that always works with elements of the landscape -the reason for an “architectural landscape”. That’s why we also create spaces – elements of architecture, for example spaces, axes, points of high elevation, we create these elements in the landscape as architectural elements, but we always try to work with the contrast between plants and architecture.
Stephan Lenzen, Interview (2012)
Stephan Lenzen + RMP Landschaftsarchitecten, New Gardens in the Dyck Field (2002)
Komar and Melamid are two Russian artist emigrés who undertook a fascinating project. Their book, Painting by Numbers, explains that “with the help of The Nation Institute and a professional polling team, they discovered that what Americans want in art, regardless of class, race, or gender, is exactly what the art world disdains–a tranquil, realistic, blue landscape.”
Once they received the general consensus, they painted the result. The painting above is what Americans prefer to see, complete with a historic figure (George Washington), deer, and children. It’s an ugly amalgamation for sure, but it is quite revealing of the aesthetic preferences of the general populace. One thing that immediately strikes me is that it looks absolutely nothing like what the Art World tells us is ‘good art.’ Although, I do suspect (like Arthur Danto) that most people would rather not actually hang this on their wall. I know I wouldn’t like to.
Not content to stop there, the duo polled countries from all over the World. The results are in (and not a surprise): People the world over tend to prefer a strikingly similar landscape. The elements we have laid out earlier are all there. What does this tell us about aesthetics and human evolution? The argument has been made that the results are an aberration due to the ubiquity of Hallmark calendars in all the countries polled – that the results have been skewed. I like to think that the ubiquity of Hallmark calendars is exactly the proof we’re looking for: Hallmark is everywhere precisely because that’s what we prefer to look at.
Komar and Melamid have just laid out Hallmark’s market research for them, and Evolutionary Psychology has backed it up: The experience of beauty belongs to our evolved human psychology.
Alan Carroll, An Instinct for Beauty (2011)
Komar and Melamid, USA’s Most Wanted Painting (1993)Komar and Melamid, Russia’s Most Wanted Painting (1995)Komar and Melamid, China’s Most Wanted Painting (1995)Komar and Melamid, France’s Most Wanted Painting (1995)Komar and Melamid, Germany’s Most Wanted Painting (1995)Komar and Melamid, Kenya’s Most Wanted Painting (1995)Komar and Melamid, Italy’s Most Wanted Painting (1995)Komar and Melamid, Holland’s Most Wanted Painting (1995)
Designed environments which are thought out, formalized, and complete are usually ‘lifeless’ and unapproachable because (a) they do not invite interaction and modiﬁcation to suit immediate human needs; (b) they are unable to develop and become extended through human use. (…) Oddly enough, many environments which ‘work’ well for people meet few, if any,aesthetic criteria ordinarily employed by designers. (…)
George Rand, quoted in Lawrence Halprin, New York, New York (1968)
For most designers this was a bitter pill to swallow. (…) We do not seem to be able to structure the process of change. On one hand we need citizen participation; on the other the magnitude of he physical needs of rebuilding are enormous.
Lawrence Halprin, New York, New York (1968)
Florian Rivière, Hacktivist Dublin (2012)
Radicant design can make do with these sites. Instead of creating an oeuvre, radicant design evolves along with continuous inquiries, interventions and evaluations into a dialogue. This evolution and the related design processes are as much part of the work as the various elements, persons. materials, events, memories and atmospheres. The work cannot be described as a classical form; it is a progressing form. its authorship is blurred: the classical framework of designers. clients and public no longer fits — all are co—creators. Not that these evolutive and cooperative work modes would be unfamiliar to landscape architects — on the contrary, but they didn’t propel 20th century landscape discourses. Let’s do so now with Bourriaud. who calls the ethical mode of altermodernity ‘translation’ and its aesthetical expression the ‘journey-form’. Performative aspects are easily part of a journey-form, as the Seljord Lake Sites project shows – a forgotten place where both the legends of old and the international students’ building activities form the landscape architectural work, to say nothing of the experience of being on the (wondrous) ways that link these minimalistic interventions. The work takes place rather than form.
Lisa Diedrich, Why we shape space (2012)
Atelier le Balto, Avantgarden (2012)
1. Use a local problem to invent a generic solution. Though landscape architecture tends to be a custom job, it can still offer solutions for footloose phenomena. 2. Use a global challenge to solve a local problem. Global problems can have a major influence in landscape design. 3. Think big in small scale projects. Design solution often emerge in the bigger picture. 4. Think small and simple in big scale projects. On large scale and long term, it’s hardly possible to foresee the results of a design intervention. Still it’s vital to show how the future might look like. 5. Design total landscapes. If possible, ‘total design’ is very powerful and can overcome apparent contradictions. 6. Don’t design everything. The more you design, the less freedom there is left. 7. Aim for pure nature. Designed nature might never be ‘pure’ but can be overwhelmingly abundant, rich, exciting and fertile. 8. Make devices to experience nature. People need devices to experience nature; they bring binoculars, kites, bike, etc. Landscape architects should develop unique devices to enable that experience. 9. Trigger senses. Like most media, this book only shows the visual side of landscapes, while an intense landscape experience depends on all senses. 10. Make sense. Landscape architecture is about realizing ideas.
Lola Landscape Architecture, 10 tips for landscape architecture (2012)
Lola Landscape Architecture, Groot Vijversburg Park (2015)
Who benefits from landscape architecture? To move beyond the simple, aspirational answer – everyone – raises further questions. Who do we think the beneficiaries ought to be, and what is their place in the texture of society as a whole? Planning and designing our future landscapes takes place in a cultural context, and culture is not monolithic. So whose culture, whose landscapes, are we conserving, enhancing or developing anew?
Catherine Ward Thompson, Who benefits from landscape architecture? (2005)
Joel Meyerowitz, Broadway and West 46th Street (1976)